NPR reports that more than 35 million voters have a disability. A third of those people say they’ve had trouble voting: getting to a polling place, reading the ballot, or using the machine.
Voters with disabilities have rights and resources to make sure they can cast their ballot.
If you are a voter with a disability, you have rights and and are legally entitled to resources to make sure you can cast your ballot.
The Voting Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), introduced in 1990, ensures persons with disabilities equality and protections against discrimination.
Under Title II of the act, voting must be accessible to those with disabilities. All physical polling locations have a checklist provided to ensure proper accommodations, which includes clear routes and ramps. If the location has an alternate entryway for wheelchairs or other accommodations, signage must be visibly displayed.
However, making the polling places accessible means they must have accommodations for people with disabilities aside from difficulty walking or requiring the use of a wheelchair. The ADA lists clear requirements for helping those who can’t see, are hard of hearing, or have other impairments that may make it difficult to vote.
Types of Voting Technologies at the Polls
Our local elections officials use a variety of systems to help voters, such as the AutoMark machine, which is a type of ballot marking device that doesn’t store your voting record in a computer system. This ensures anonymity in voting, as well as accuracy.
The AutoMark system also has features for people who need extra assistance voting. This includes Braille, language translations, and oral recordings.
Each voting station is also required to provide a telecommunication device for the deaf (TDD) or a teletypewriter (TTYs) for those needing hearing assistance.
Bringing an Aide to the Polls
If you need further assistance, every polling place will have a designated Voter Assistance Aide to help you through the voting process. If you prefer to bring your own aide, you’re permitted to do so under federal law. Your voter registration form has a field that will allow you to indicate if you plan to do so.
Your aide will need to fill out a Declaration stating they are there to assist you in your voting process. Your aide cannot be an employer or official of your union.
If you did not indicate on your voter registration form that you planned to bring an aide with you, you will also need to fill out a Declaration at the voting location.
Using a Vote-By-Mail Ballot
If you’re unable to visit a physical polling location, prefer to vote from home, or feel you need additional time to complete your ballot, you have the option of mailing in your ballot.
Vote-by-mail ballots must be received at the Supervisor of Elections Office no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day. Most districts encourage voters to submit their ballot at least a week in advance to make sure it arrives on time.
Note: The last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot for the upcoming election was Oct. 20. However, you can still request that one be sent to you for future elections. Visit VotePinellas.com to request one.
Further Information and Resources
We’re here to make sure you can get to the polls and vote to the best of your ability. Check out these resources to make sure you have the resources your need.
- Get Informed: the U.S. Election Assistance Commission created a guide with 10 Tips for Voters with Disabilities. It’s a great place to start to learn how to navigate the polls.
- Learn About the Services Offered by Pinellas County: Visit the Supervisor of Elections website to learn how Pinellas County accommodates voters with disabilities.
- Have Reliable Transportation: there are multiple resources to get to the polls, including Carpool Vote and Drive to Vote.
- Find Local Resources: some organizations offer resources for older Americans. Use the Eldercare Locator to find public services you can use.
There’s one more step to prepare to vote: learn about the issues and candidates! Now that you know how to vote, it’s time to get informed. Check out the Pinellas Voter Guide to learn about the candidates, their platforms, and the ballot measures.